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Case Study – The Cloghroe Connection?

Updated on November 3, 2019

Case Study – The Cloghroe Connection?

Introduction:

On the evening of the 28th of August 1987, a group of young people were celebrating the 21st birthday party of a friend. Nobody expected the night to be front page news of the Cork Evening Echo the next day. The following will detail what happened that night as told by an eye witness whom I interviewed. The person I spoke with was the man celebrating his 21st birthday that night and was able to point out the inconsistencies surrounding the events of the night as written in the Evening Echo, including direct quotes from the Gardaí. Media sensationalism can often be a catalyst for fear and panic. The question then arises as to why the piece was written in such an overly dramatic manner. For the purposes of this essay, the eyewitness will be called Eddie in order to protect his identity. Furthermore any other persons involved in the event and the ensuing court cases will also remain anonymous. It is important to note that these events occurred thirty one years ago and though the article angered Eddie at the time, he now looks back on it with a great degree of amusement. I have included the full article from The Evening Echo and would advise reading the article before continuing with the reading of the essay. (Accessible below the bibliography).

Background

  • Event: A 21st Birthday party
  • Attendees: Approximately 25 people.
  • Location: A cottage on the grounds of Cloghroe House, Cloghroe, Blarney, Co. Cork.
  • Date: 28.08.1987 – 29.08.1987
  • Occurrence: In the early hours of the morning of 29.08.1987, Gardaí descended on the party, citing a complaint about loud music.

Events of the evening as reported by the newspaper:

It could be said that any law abiding person who picked up a copy of the newspaper on the 29.08.1987 would have been shocked by what they were reading and concerned that such behaviour could be emerging as the norm in Cork society. It can be said that the headline “Gardaí smash drugs orgy” (Collins, 1987a), set the tone for the remainder of the piece. “A stone mad, wild drugs orgy near the otherwise sleepy village of Cloghroe, Blarney, was broken up by a special 14-strong Garda task force early this morning.” (Collins, 1987b). This conjures up images of a scene of chaos, with dangerous people who are out of their minds on drugs, infiltrating a quiet, rural village to cause mayhem. The mention of a Garda task force arguably lends credibility to the sensationalised reporting of the event. The article detailed that a “sizeable quantity of cannabis and grass in packets, small blocks and rolled joints was seized in the early morning raid on the nerve-centre of the Cloghroe-connection.” (Collins, 1987c). One might assume from this that an ongoing, major drug problem was occurring in the area at the time. The article also said that Gardaí’s initial reason for going to the house that night was to “investigate what looked like a huge bonfire.” (Collins, 1987d).

The report states that three Gardaí arrived at 3am. It says that they were met with “a drugs-drink drama and a scene of horror.” (Collins, 1987e). In terms of the language used, it can be argued that phrases and words which could incite reactions of shock from the public, abound in this piece. “Thirty spaced-out drunk and drug-crazed young men and women were screaming, roaring and stone mad wild.” (Collins, 1987f). An element of credibility is added to the report as it contains information directly attributed to Gardaí who were on the scene. At that time people, in general, would have looked up to, respected and believed their local Gardaí. “At one stage the three Gardaí thought they would be thrown on to the bonfires.” (Collins, 1987g). The report states that the three Gardaí retreated, to request back-up and organise a search warrant. “At 4.30 am 10 reinforcements descended on the shack.” (Collins, 1987h). At this point the article seems to be recounting a scene from Sodom and Gomorrah instead of a small 21st birthday party in Co. Cork. At this stage even more contradictions and inconsistencies begin to arise in the report. “The drugs party was broken up without incident and there were no arrests.” (Collins, 1987i). After describing an out of control party with bonfires, drugs, drink and fear for their safety, strangely, the Gardaí made no arrests. After this statement, the article went on to say “One Garda thought as much as 3lbs of cannabis with a street value of £6000, and grass was found but the Garda drug squad could not confirm this.” (Collins, 1987j). The scope creep of speculation is revealed here and arguably this party was used as a patsy for another issue entirely. “The suspicion of local Gardaí having been aroused by the appearance of strange, spaced-out characters in the tiny village of Cloghroe.” (Collins, 1987k). The Garda description of the people involved would leave no doubt that locals in the area would not want such people in their village. “Locals were very worried about the interlopers.” (Collins, 1987l).

In the next section, Eddie will describe the events of that night as they actually happened and this will show that the article was written from a biased point of view. Had Eddie been interviewed as part of the report at the time, it would have been far different and it could be argued that it would not have made the front page of The Evening Echo. Eddie will refute all of the accusations made within the article and explain what really occurred. As it transpires, there are also glaring omissions in the article.

Events as reported by the eyewitness “Eddie”

According to Eddie, the article is almost entirely fabricated and exaggerated to the point of hilarity. The only facts which were correctly reported were that there was a party and it did indeed happen at a cottage on the grounds of Cloghroe House, Blarney, Co Cork, on the night in question. Eddie says the events subsequently reported in The Evening Echo are fraught with discrepancies. For example, it was reported by Collins (1987), that Gardaí went to investigate a huge bonfire or bonfires. Eddie explains that “there were no bonfires, however there was a small campfire which was never in danger of going out of control.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018a). He goes on to say that having lived in the cottage for the previous three months he had “never witnessed a Garda patrol on the grounds of Cloghroe House.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018b). On arrival the Gardaí said that they were acting on a noise complaint which Eddie finds particularly amusing as the nearest neighbour lived almost half a mile away and was in attendance at the party. Eddie says that prior to he and his friends moving into the cottage “it had been vacant for quite some time.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018c). This raises major doubt as to the veracity of the report’s statement that “the chalet had been under surveillance for six months.” (Collins, 1987m). Eddie is insistent that “No drug dealing was being conducted at the cottage and whoever came up with the term “Cloghroe-connection” must have been watching too many 1970s movies.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018d). As for “the suspicion of local Gardaí having been aroused by the appearance of strange spaced-out looking characters in the tiny village.” (Collins, 1987n), Eddie says that during their tenancy of the cottage they may have visited the local shop six or seven times and went to the local pub on one occasion only. While Eddie concedes that the lads may have had longer hair than the local inhabitants, this does not justify the inference that they were strange, spaced-out characters.

It was reported by The Evening Echo (1987), that the partygoers were screaming and roaring, spaced-out on drugs and drink, and that Gardaí feared for their lives. According to Eddie, there was no direct threat to Gardaí. Eddie says that the gross misrepresentation of the facts culminates with the claim of the “sizeable quantity of drugs” (Collins, 1987o). Eddie categorically states “There was no sizeable quantity of drugs at the party”, although he admits that “most of the people in attendance were smoking cannabis.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018e). The report states that one Garda thought there might have been £6000 worth of drugs at the party, but went on to mention that it could not be confirmed by the drug squad. Eddie says that the Garda search did uncover “approximately 14 grams of homegrown cannabis with a street value of £30.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018f), which he also stresses was not grown in or around the property but had been “sourced from a hippy in Ballineen.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018g).

Eddie went on to say that the article failed to mention that the “Gardaí seized an antique rifle which was purely ornamental and hung above the fireplace.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018h). In Eddie’s opinion, it is surprising that due to the overly dramatic way in which the article was written, that no mention was made of a firearm being seized, but he is also keen to point out that there was “no ammunition for the rifle, nor were he and his friends aware as to whether or not the gun actually worked.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018i). Clear discrepancies are evident between the newspaper report and Eddie’s account of what transpired. Eddie contends that if a sizeable quantity of drugs had been found on the night, surely arrests would have been made. Furthermore, he finds it unusual that had the Gardaí indeed feared for their lives, i.e. being thrown onto bonfires, that again, no arrests were made. Eddie then goes on to recount the unfortunate fate of one the partygoers whose vehicle was searched under the Misuse of Drugs Act, 1977. This man’s only crime was to be the owner of a fruit and veg shop. “He used his estate car for daily trips to the wholesalers resulting in the back of the car containing bits of cabbage leaves and the green bits from the tops of carrots.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018j). Eddie says “It was the cause of much hilarity when Gardaí informed the suspect that the samples which had been taken were to be sent to Dublin for analysis.” (Cloghroe case 1987, 2018k). Although the party was described in a respected newspaper as an out of control drink and drugs orgy at which Gardaí feared for their lives, incongruously, only three summonses ensued. Eddie was alleged by the Gardaí to be the owner of the 14 grams of cannabis, which had been found under a bed in a boot. Another partygoer was also issued with a summons for possession of cannabis, even though he was caught with only enough for one medium sized joint. The third summons to be issued was in regard to the firearm, which, as previously referred to, did not warrant mention in the original Evening Echo article. Eddie declines to confirm whether the 14 grams of cannabis were his or not, but says that the case was thrown out of court for lack of evidence as he informed the judge that the drugs could have been placed in the boot by any number of people. The case regarding the rifle was also thrown out of court when the father of the man who had been charged with its possession gave evidence in court that “the rifle was a family heirloom and wouldn’t blow the skin off a rice pudding.” (Anon, 1987 cited in Cloghroe case 1987, 2018l).The only successful prosecution to arise from this headline grabbing event was a £30 fine which was handed down to the person who was caught in possession of enough cannabis for one joint.

What was happening in Irish society at the time?

It has been argued that “the term fear of crime was first used in Europe during the 1960s as a way to explain the public’s reaction to criminal behaviour.” (Justice.ie, 2018). It can be said that newspapers have been quick to cash in on this and often create hysteria in order to sell papers, a fact which is clearly demonstrated by the misrepresentation of the events in this case. Fear of crime has been defined as “an emotional response of dread or anxiety to crime or symbols that a person associates with crime” (Ferraro, 1995). Therefore, reading an article like this can arguably create unnecessary panic among certain members of society, who very often will believe that what is reported is always the truth, even though it could be said that many media reports will only show one interpretation of the subject. In the 1980s Ireland saw a vast increase in drug use, particularly in the inner cities. Writer Andre Lyder (2005) describes the heroin explosion in Dublin during the 1980s as impactful to thousands of lives and an area that warrants much more analysis in terms of crime and social dislocation. As evidenced in this case it could be argued that the event which occurred in Cloghroe was blown out of proportion and that Gardaí may have set out to deliberately discourage suspected drug users from bringing an inner city problem to rural areas of Ireland. Whether Mr. Dan Collins deliberately sensationalised the events which took place or whether he was deliberately fed misinformation by members of An Garda Siochana is impossible to determine. However, by referring to the people in question as “interlopers” and “strange, spaced-out characters” (Collins, 1987p), it could be said that, as a result of his report, a stranger appearing in a rural area who may look slightly different or out of place would immediately be under suspicion of criminal activity. Had Mr. Collins interviewed people besides the Gardaí he would have obtained a less biased and more accurate depiction of what transpired that night, and any unnecessary fear which he may have created in rural communities could have been avoided.

© 2019 Linda O Keeffe

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